Rwanda: Growing on the ashes of conflict

How conflict-healing Rwanda is dealing with its past and on the path to progress

Kigali, Rwanda, June 17 - "Words fail you when you come to a place like this," s aid World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz after touring the National Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali, built in memory of over one million people who, in 1994, were decimated in a brusque and bloody 100 days."The international community bears responsibility for looking the other way," he said . "Saying sorry isn't enough. We need to do something to make sure it never happens again." Wolfowitz laid a wreath at a mass grave at the site and reiterated his message at a youth forum organized by Never Again International, a youth network formed to mobilize young people to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that tore apart the nation's social and economic fabric.

In his meetings with a cross-section of Rwandans, Wolfowitz said he was impressed by the fortitude of the people - the way in which they'd achieved so much despite very significant challenges.

"I'm amazed at the quality of the human capital. These are people who deserve more help, because they're making the most of what they've got, "he said.

This strength of spirit was given fresh expression during his visit to Rwanda Flora, a thriving flower farm and rose-export business whose owner, Beatrice Gakuba, who left a 10-year international development career to return to Rwanda. "My goal was to grow beautiful roses on the ashes of genocide," she said.

Gakuba now exports four tones of roses a week to Europe and employs 200 people , mainly women from the rural areas. "Working with development taught me to integrate social services into my business."

Strong support for more aid A visit to the shanty Biryogo neighborhood of the capital illustrated how a church-run community health center was implementing a novel program. It's a program in which independent agencies sign performance-based contracts with government to deliver health services. The model, also being adopted for micro-enterprise schemes, is being used to accelerate the re-building of a health system which is still resource-scarce, despite recent increases in budgetary allocations.

Wolfowitz's one-and-a-half day visit also involved meetings with the Head of State H.E. Paul Kagame, the cabinet, private sector and women's groups. The civil society leaders he met explained the challenges of reconciliation and social inclusion they were dealing with, as well as the obstacles to economic growth.

Talking with journalists at the end of his visit, Wolfowitz said he was "strongly in favor" of more development aid going to Africa and would work with the United States administration, the US Congress, and G8 leaders to develop more political support for the idea.

He noted, however, that increased development assistance was only one small step. Mutual responsibility was also needed to succeed. "Increased assistance goes together with the need for better performance," he said. "And while greater access to international markets is important, African countries need to open up opportunities for private sector investment, to speed up growth."

Wolfowitz said he had seen clear commitment by African leaders he'd met to address governance issues and take responsibility for better performance.